Knights of the Round Table

The Knights of the Round Table (Welsh: Marchogion y Ford Gron, Cornish: Marghekyon an Moos Krenn, Breton: Marc'hegien an Daol Grenn) are the knights in the fellowship of King Arthur in the literary cycle of the Matter of Britain, a French-derived branch of Arthurian legend. They first appear in literature in the mid 12th century. The Knights are an order dedicated to ensuring the peace of Arthur's kingdom following an early warring period, and later undergoing the mystical quest for the Holy Grail. The Round Table at which they meet is a symbol of the equality of its members, from sovereign royals to minor nobles.

The Arming and Departure of the Knights, one of the Holy Grail-themed 19th-century tapestries by Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and John Henry Dearle
King Arthur and his knights in a 14th-century Italian manuscript of the Vulgate Cycle's Quest for the Holy Grail

The various stories in the cycle present an assortment of knights. They hail from all over Great Britain and abroad, some even from beyond Europe. Their ranks often include Arthur's close and distant relatives such as Agravain and Gaheris, as well as his reconciled enemies and those he defeated in battle, like Galehaut and Lot. Several of the most notable knights, namely Bedivere, Gawain, Kay and Yvain, are based on older characters associated with Arthur in the Welsh version of the myth. Many knights appear recurrently; Gawain was one of the most popular figures, alongside Lancelot, Percival and Tristan, each of them featured as protagonist or eponymous hero in multiple works and pieces of chivalric romance. Other well-known members include the holy knight Galahad, replacing Percival as the achiever of the Grail, and Arthur's traitorous son Mordred.

At the end of Arthurian prose cycles, including in the seminal Le Morte d'Arthur, the Round Table breaks down into groups of warring factions following the revelation of Lancelot's adultery with King Arthur's wife, Queen Guinevere. In the same tradition, Guinevere is featured with her own personal order of young warriors and knights, known as the Queen's Knights. Some of the romances furthermore tell the story of the Knights of the Old Table of Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, as well as the members of the 'Grail Table' - the followers of an early Christian, Joseph of Arimathea, centuries later serving as the model for Uther's Round Table and eventually Arthur's.